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Front Neuroinform. 2007 Nov 2;1:3. doi: 10.3389/neuro.11.003.2007. eCollection 2007.

A formal ontology of subcellular neuroanatomy.

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National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, University of California USA.


The complexity of the nervous system requires high-resolution microscopy to resolve the detailed 3D structure of nerve cells and supracellular domains. The analysis of such imaging data to extract cellular surfaces and cell components often requires the combination of expert human knowledge with carefully engineered software tools. In an effort to make better tools to assist humans in this endeavor, create a more accessible and permanent record of their data, and to aid the process of constructing complex and detailed computational models, we have created a core of formalized knowledge about the structure of the nervous system and have integrated that core into several software applications. In this paper, we describe the structure and content of a formal ontology whose scope is the subcellular anatomy of the nervous system (SAO), covering nerve cells, their parts, and interactions between these parts. Many applications of this ontology to image annotation, content-based retrieval of structural data, and integration of shared data across scales and researchers are also described.


data integration; electron microscopy; neuroanatomy; neuronal cell types; subcellular anatomy

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